LIVINGSTON, NJ — A 20-year-old Livingston resident is becoming a recognized face throughout the tri-state area after he saved 8-year-old Dylan Dratch from an attacking fox that could have caused much worse damage had he not interfered.

While walking with a friend near a shed on Springbrook Road on July 29, Dratch was met with a fox that refused to detach from her shins and ankles no matter how much she kicked at it. Nearly a week later, the Township of Livingston is still abuzz with the news of Dratch’s rapid recovery and the bravery shown by her rescuer, Matthew Nichter.

“I didn't have time to think and just acted with my instincts,” Nichter said of his role in rescuing the child, adding that despite the urgency of the situation, he was able to perceive that the small animal would feel threatened by him. “I knew that there was a high probability that the fox was more afraid of me than I was of it, so I was able to act without hesitation.”

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Hearing Dratch’s screams that afternoon, Nichter immediately stopped the basketball game he had been playing nearby and came to the young girl’s aid. Throwing his ball at the fox and intimidating it with his size and a loud voice, Nichter was able to chase the animal away.

Although he was a stranger to Dratch and she had been traumatized by the sudden ambush, Nichter was also able to calm her down while someone else called her mother.

Since the incident, Nichter’s parents have both expressed pride in their son’s actions and gratitude that he was able to get to Dratch quickly enough to save her from further injury.

“We could not be more proud,” said his father, Larry. “He’s an awesome kid.”

A further look into the life of the Livingston High School (LHS) alumnus revealed that his recent heroism only adds to an already impressive list of accomplishments.

Prior to graduating from LHS in 2018, Nichter was named captain of the varsity wrestling team during his senior year and also won the Essex County wrestling championship during his sophomore year.

“Wrestling taught me the importance of discipline and also helped shape my work ethic,” said Nichter. “I learned about the drive it takes to set and achieve goals.” 

Now a rising junior at the University of Denver, where he has a demanding academic schedule as a Hospitality and Management major, Nichter also volunteers at a nearby restaurant called Café 180.  

“They make food available to anyone who cannot afford it,” he said of the establishment. “It was an essential service to the community, seeing as Denver has a large homeless population.”

Having worked at the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan since age 17 in addition to serving the hungry at Café 180, Nichter already has extensive restaurant experience.

While still making time for hobbies like cooking, reading, exercising and photography, Nichter is currently pursuing a future career as the owner or manager of a hospitality-related business or project.

Meanwhile, Dratch will spend the next few weeks of her summer receiving rabies treatment as a precaution as Livingston Animal Control continues to search for the fox that left her with 19 puncture wounds.

The department, which installed traps immediately following the incident, assured residents that the township has not seen a fox bite to a human since 1989 and surmised that this particular fox could have been protecting pups in a den.

Due to her pre-existing canine allergy, Dratch also experienced an allergic reaction to the fox bites and was treated with Epinephrine while at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.